The art historian Ernst Gombrich compared that special fruit of the imagination that we call art to a room of mirrors with infinite reflections, or an acoustic gallery in which the slightest whispers can be heard from far away.
It is there, said Gombrich, that every form evokes a thousand memories and secondary images, like a river that opens out into a delta of infinite possibilities, in which even the smallest rivulets can give rise to new configurations and to original developments. As soon as an image is assigned to the art, a new nexus of connections is created which the image cannot escape. Lorenzo Marini’s images are also built in transitions, outside the orthodoxy of the everyday and inside a conduit branching towards successive stylistic reprises, and they are also made of rescued linguistic relics like Futurism, action painting or the stylistic fragmentation of postmodernism, all cues that now, thanks to Marini, come back into play in new arrangements of interference and of meaning. This is why the artworks of Marini, who works horizontally, contaminating painting, silkscreen printing, environmental installation and photography, are a coagulation of many flows and form the point of emergence of the great many cues that guide his creative universe, which encompasses and draws on cultural production
from top to bottom, taking in graphic art, industrial design, the languages of advertising and cartoons, to arrive at the lofty domain of Renaissance artworks, right up to the experiments of the historic avant-garde. The creative fusion Marini builds up on images repositions them on a plane of perspective where preferential motifs or linguistic boundaries no longer exist. In Marini’s works, for example in “Type C” (2017), representation, uniqueness or duplication of figures, abstraction, opulence of color, and essentiality of the stroke all cohabit on the same plane. What emerges is a melding of images that, transformed and metamorphosed, are nevertheless inimitable, because the moving relationship that Marini regales us, with his founts, his expressive means and his imaginarium, is also inimitable and never standardized. Straightaway it must be pointed out that Lorenzo Marini’s works, even in their apparent playfulness, are not consumed immediately, and instead require the viewer to spend time in analysis and decipherment.
“What emerges is a melding of images that, transformed and metamorphosed, are nevertheless inimitable”
Although their impact is immediate, a promise kept by the vividness of color and gesture, by the tongue-incheek use of recognizable images and by the paradoxical interferences drawn from the highs and lows of cultural production, at the same time each work by the artist requires more time, as if to launch a challenge at the viewer to penetrate the work beyond the pleasantness of the shades and tones and recover a hidden meaning, the decipherment of an enigma, the revelation of a new code. The challenge also lies in the creation of a new visual context that frees language, revealing perceptive and psychic experiences fulfilled as signed, verbal or graphic experiences: an “E” made up of architectural blueprints becomes a futuristic project of architecture and semiotics, an “O” fluctuates in space held suspended by bands of color that recall Delaunay, Goncharova and Russian Rayonism, a “C” splits into two in its symmetrical alter ego, as if to become the symbol of an unknown brand or of a new Marvel superhero.
On examining the elaboration that Marini applies to the
atomic units of words, i.e. letters, the viewer’s mind turns to Isidore Isou and to Lettrism, the movement that Isou founded in France in 1946 together with Maurice Lemaître, Gabriel Pomerand, Roland Sabatier, Francois Dufrene and Gil Wolman. Although lacking the eschatological and political charge of historical Lettrism, here too, letters and signs in Marini’s hands become the plastic elements on which to build a new pictorial vision that becomes poly-writing, that therefore extends to the literary world and to iconography, where it is no longer words but letters and signs that are elevated to the status of autonomous elements, access keys to the world and to the potential of an uncorrupted, primal vision of signs. The childish drawings that permeate these works testify to a reformative dream, a simple and immediate imaginarium, and a new and extremely playful outlook, which melds with the complex and profound experience of an artist who has always spanned the symbology of signs and has detailed knowledge of its nuances and its expressive potential.
In this way the crumbling of language and the atomization of the letter are converted to new plastic/visual objects, like an old 1970s chewinggum vending machine that today dispenses symbols and letters to be interchanged at will, giving space to all possible alphabets: phonetic, syllabic, ideogrammatic or lexical, all of them becoming fused and intermingled in the pictorial magma of the artist’s canvases. Letter, sign and image all become the bricks of the new cathedral of art, toward an unprecedented unification of means of communication that begins from Marshall McLuhan’s global village and arrives to touch the iconosphere of the World Wide Web and social media. For Lorenzo Marini, a human being is first and foremost a being of communication, emitting and receiving, immersed in networks of signs, producer of an art in which the primary particles let themselves be contaminated, overlapped and inflected, involving the audience in a creative process that is open, unlimited, unbound by time, and whole. One is struck by the many references to a pure and uncorrupted outlook, one that can disentangle itself with ease in today’s jungle of signs, and also the underscoring, in artwork after artwork, of an infancy of the sign that also emerges in the great many references to a childlike vision of codes per se. These works are like messages sealed in a bottle and thrown into the sea of visual chaos that we are immersed in today; they are the testimony of an absolute master of contemporary communication who is now concentrating on pure, disinterested creativity and glimpses the very real possibility of a project of freedom and of creative energy, a new adventure that frees objects as commodities and reclaims objects as emancipation and imagination. Here the artwork finally loses its traditional composure, breaking free from the rigidity of codified languages, confidently discarding the commissioning client, and becoming a radiating center of energy and life. The principle of pleasure has replaced the principle of reality. The image created by the artist, the fantastic spelling-book where it embarks on a collision course with the word, in each case takes on a further meaning, a moving payload that arises progressively from the interferences and shortcircuits of the images used, through visual assonances and transitions of signs that connote the space of the painting as a potential site of free and moving relationships, a space of freed freedom. This effect, which as we observed leads the viewer to abandon analysis and the subtle pleasure of deciphering to make room for an initial, overwhelming blaze of sensorial gratification, is also assisted by the ornamental turbulence of these works, a dissemination of boxes, of rebuses, of ironic cues, of chromatic and somehow enigmatic fireworks, which cover the surface of Marini’s paintings without pause. In the late sixteenth century, Giuseppe Arcimboldo with his “composite heads” made burlesque creations of aesthetic substitution, in which the face as the sum of the parts was not attributable to each individual unit, whether flower, fruit or animal. Lorenzo Marini – Arcimboldo reborn – instead works by mining the proliferation of signs and of images that today’s liquid society has amassed one after the other with no thought as to their value and authority, and from this great confusing chaos he tries to set out to find new footholds of sense, brand-new clusters of meanings and possibilities, renewed contemporary faces freed from the standardized yoke of commodities or of the product, even though they are composed from these elements, just as the faces of Arcimboldo celebrated the metamorphosis of mushrooms, corals, utensils and tree-barks, thanks to the metaphor of art. For Marini, imagining is an imaging of the plurality of life and culture, the world and the plural and contradictory signs (figures and words) with which it manifests itself.
He works in an area with boundaries that overlap and are often mutable, just as some of his compositions are stratified and polysemic and must be read as contemporary collages in which the superimposition of silkscreen printing and painting and the richness of iconographic references just barely allow the underlying drawings to emerge, while the surface drawings jump out at the viewer. Marini’s vision is soft, playful and even sensual, in which Eros, obvious in a work like “ArtAlfa” (2019), lies in having grasped that history today is not one and absolute, it does not have the closed boundaries of exclusive membership, it does not have to take refuge in unique Native American reservations and it does not know the truth except as a moving horizon to aim for and on which to converge dreams, fantasies, passions and impressions. But what the artist has set in motion is not an improvised game, despite the playful aspect of some of his works.
“These works are like messages sealed in a bottle and thrown into the sea of visual chaos that we are immersed in today; they are the testimony of an absolute master of contemporary communication who is now concentrating on pure, disinterested creativity”
Marini’s idea is based on the thirst for danger of those with a clear historical awareness of the fact that the world has become a mass of dross and of theories, of spurious fragments and elements, of objects and of visions. And so painting and languages become fluvial, transporting and expressing that strange vacillation, beyond the artificial certainties of the cages of huge systems and of standardized communication, which is the very vacillation of today’s world, happily and fruitfully unstable. That is why in Marini’s works, words and images do not simply alternate, but fuse together, now embracing in frenetic and tormented totalities, now relaxed, domestic and even lapidary, discovering an irresistible case study of anomalies with which to revitalize the inert everyday and the life of images with passion and fascination. Words like images and images like words, the everyday is evoked with sensuality and poetry even from its most banal elements, exposed like fragments, refractions, tonalities and nexuses. That is why Lorenzo Marini has been able to break out of the golden prison of official language, breaking its chains and freely associating the figures, signs and words that go to make up new constellations of relationships and a use of freedom as freedom freed. In considering Marini’s alphabets, made of images of every register, the decipherment of which places them in juxtaposition with letters, we witness a shift. Instead of the normal hierarchical, linear and even authoritarian relationship between text and image, between seeing and reading, here we are witnessing the opening up of an open, two-way topographic space, reminiscent of that of Futurism, a space where the most basic units of writing – letters – are separated from their practical function of verbal description, while at the same time they exist both as a verbal reference and as a purely visual phenomenon, and it is enough to consider a work like “Futurtype” (2018) to realize this.
“It is hard to think of
a more vital art form at this point in history.”
Under this freed freedom of languages, visual and verbal, Marini presides over a different organization of the space of the artwork for the image, and of reference contexts for words. He has cleared the field of a series of incursions that, with the supremacy of gesture and of the body of the artist, invade the territory of a culture saturated with printed images, glyphs and graphemes, as he showed in the installation AlphaCube, recently exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2019 and at the Design Week in Dubai, in which Marini is photographed in the pose of the Vitruvian Man, no longer outstretched on a world where man is the measure of all things, but on an elastic universe, in the liquid expansion/ contraction that today expresses the relationship between verbal signs, graphics and images.
Finally the letters and the alphabets breathe, and advance through new and fertile territories of imagination and creative freedom. The works of Lorenzo Marini have given impetus to this emancipation and to a vision of language that is no longer restrictive but connective and prolific, where his passion for art also becomes the precious indication of a way of observing the world from multiple angles, seizing on its past experiences and possible future developments. The absolute of art and of the freedom of man lies here, in an inescapable form of exchange and dialog, because the only intolerance that art abides is intolerance of arrest, stiffening and separation. It is hard to think of a more vital art form at this point in history.